On October 6-8, The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) held their annual conference in Washington, DC. Things were a bit different this year. The Army has begun actively engaging bloggers and SpouseBUZZ was invited to take part in Blogger's Row at AUSA giving us, and other military bloggers, access to senior Army leadership and their spouses. I was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, so Army wife Tammy Munson went in my place, and she filed this recap last night:
AUSA Day One
The Association of the United States Army had its annual meeting and Exposition last week at the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. I had the privilege of being part of bloggers' row with Jim of Blackfive.net and Colin of DOD Buzz.
I got to the event a bit early and was wowed at the sight of the all the people that are here at the Washington Convention Center... soldiers, family members, etc. I haven't made it down to the exhibitor floor yet as I stopped to watch the opening ceremony of conference. I have to say that was pretty cool.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren was the keynote speaker. Sec. Geren spoke a lot about soldiers and their families. He talked the strength of the Army were soldiers and families taking care of soldiers and families.
During the Press conference, GEN Casey talked about what they were going to do as an entity. There was some brief discussion about what lies ahead. It seems that GEN Casey and the rest of the Army is going to focus on Army families, among other things.
The thing I was most impressed with are the number of initiatives that they have proposed that will help all Army families, not just the Army spouse and Army brats under 18. We all know that the "Army family" extends beyond spouses and children. It includes soldier's parents, brothers and sisters.
After the big press conference with Secretary Geren and GEN Casey, I ventured down to the Expo floor. I was completely wowed at the amount and caliber of the vendors that were there, not to mention the amount of "brass" that was there. Every time I turned around I was bumping into some member of Senior Army Leadership. : )
The highlight of the day was definitely meeting Mrs. Casey. I tried to ask a question during their presentation and didn't get a chance. I approached her Aide about asking a couple of questions and we talked for a few minutes about being an Army wife, and some of things that she and GEN Casey talked about. I talked to her about the website that LAW and I have been working on and she was very interested in providing more support for parents of our single soldiers.
The day ended with a Bloggers' Roundtable with several members of Army leadership, including MG MacDonald (Commanding General of MWR Command). They talked about several key topics from casualty assistance to more support for parents of our single soldiers. They also touched on doing a great deal more for our single soldiers. The Army is going to be creating some publications and information specifically for the parents of our single soldiers. Make sure to check out Parents Zone for more information about this!
Overall the theme of the day was that if the family isn't ready, the unit isn't ready. I wholeheartedly agree with this. We need to make sure that all soldiers and their families are truly ready for the mission, whatever the mission is.
AUSA Day Two
Most of the 2nd day at AUSA I spent with LAW of Parents Zone. We started off the day attending another Family Forum that mainly focused on the Army's National Guard and Reserve component.It was really interesting to see all the National Guard/Reserve families there. Since this forum mainly focused on them, there was a multitude of information and resources available to them. General and Mrs. Stultz talked a great deal about the how the citizen soldier sees their community partnering with the Army and that gives them some comfort.
They also discussed how some soldiers and families were falling through the cracks. It was acknowledged that they don't follow "family readiness" and the Army realizes that they need to.
The forum focused on "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program," which was started by the Minnesota National Guard after they realized things were lacking for the Reserve and National Guard soldiers after they came home, as compared to the active component.
Secretary Geren signed an order earlier this year that states spouses, children and parents of single soldiers are allowed to attend reintegration programs at the Army's expense to better prepare families to support their soldiers when they come home. They can anticipate additional training for the individual with a multitude of resources at their disposal.
During this family forum, they also talked a great deal about the Community Covenant. Basically, its the engagement of our communities with the Army to provide support for our soldiers within their communities. You can find out more information about it here. It has lots of information about ways for communities to support the military as well as offering some best practices at the state and local level.
After the forum, LAW and I headed down to the Expo floor to check out all of the vendors in the Family section of the expo. There were all kinds of awesome resources for families. One in particular, was Operation Life Transformed, which is an organization that provides education, and resources to our war wounded caregivers and military spouses through private and corporate entities.
After an awesome lunch with LAW, I headed back to Blogger's Row to hang out for a bit. I eventually ran into my social media friend and NBC Cameraman, Jim Long (www.vergemedia.com) and got to chat with him for a brief minute before Gen Petraeus' speech.
Gen Petraeus was quite funny! He was even cracking Chuck Norris jokes! : ) Gen Petraeus talked about the great work that soldiers are doing in Iraq, what it takes to sustain what they currently have, etc. It was truly inspiring to hear that we are doing good things and making a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people.
I ended up not attending Day 3 as I had some client things that needed to be taken care of. Believe me I'd rather have been at AUSA!
I'm definitely looking forward to attending next year's event! Whether you are a soldier, spouse or family member, I highly recommend it if you can make the trip.
Thanks Andi for giving me the opportunity to attend!Tammy Munson
Thanks for the report, Tammy.